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Cuban documentarians to show, discuss film

Documentary filmmakers María Elena Pérez and Duniesky Cantón Fernández, students at Cuba’s renowned Instituto Superior de Arte, will show their film on living conditions in Cuba and engage in a panel discussion of Cuban life and film-making at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20 at Tyler Hall, Room 201.

The film screening and discussion are free and open to the public. The program is sponsored by W&M’s Latin American Studies program, the College’s Middle Passage Project and the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies.

What makes the documentarians’ visit unique is that the film, while not directly and openly critical of the Cuban government, is quite critical of living conditions in Cuba – yet they have been given permission by the Cuban government to come to the United States to show it.

Perez and Fernandez’s film details life in one of the "solares" or public housing units, in Havana. These typically are large, old houses, or apartment buildings - or in this case what apparently were slave quarters and horse stables - that over the years have been added onto and adapted for multi-family living quarters.

Solares in Cuba are overcrowded, poor and frequently violent places where many generations of the same families live with very limited access to services or appliances that we associate with modernity. Housing is a deep and chronic problem in Cuba, especially in Havana, and Perez and Fernandez explore how out of control the situation is.

The students, who are visiting the United States for the first time, come to William & Mary through an arrangement with American University of Washington, D.C. Last December, an American University professor organized and led a journalism training program for a group of Cuban students at the Instituto Superior de Arte, complementing a similar course provided to AU Abroad students and providing occasion for the Cuban and AU students to work together.

The film created by Pérez and Fernández was judged the most compelling and they were invited to spend a week at American U, which then offered William & Mary the opportunity to host them as well.

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